Nothing strikes fear into the hearts of prospective adoptive parents like the home study. They imagine a scowling social worker examining every crack and crevice of their home, taking marks off for dusty picture frames or unwashed dishes in the sink, and asking intrusive questions abut the most intimate details of their life. In this article, a hopeful adoptive mom shares what the experience was actually like.

Ridiculously real

Our family’s first home study visit was a doozy! We were nervous leading up to it, as I believe most families are, but the real thing bordered on ridiculous. You just can’t make this stuff up!

But let’s back up a bit. Our home study had been scheduled to begin in December, but on the day of our first visit, the meeting was cancelled by the agency due to unforeseeable circumstances. Although my husband and I completely understood, we were disappointed.

With Christmas on the horizon, rescheduling was put off until January when a new social worker was assigned. We shared with her that we lived just out of town, and our driveway could be intimidating during the winter. However, she was confident and that eased our minds.

Snowed under and up in smoke

The day arrived- and with it, a blizzard. No joke. The snow was coming down thick and fast, with no end in sight. Half an hour before the social worker was scheduled to arrive, we heard vehicles coming up our driveway.

A group of SUVs with loads of young men had driven up our driveway, thinking it was a forest service road. In an attempt to go off-roading, the lead vehicle tried to drive through a snowbank and ended up high-centered.

Twenty minutes of digging got the vehicle unstuck, but as we were trying to get the group turned around and on their way, our social worker arrived. As the driveway was still blocked, she had to stop and began sliding backwards in the accumulating snow. That would be enough to rattle anyone!

Fast forward another ten minutes. The group of SUVs had headed out, and our social worker was settling in. We had just started discussions when our pagers went off. Did I mention that we are both “paid-on-call” firefighters? We had forgotten to turn off our pagers, and there was a major motor vehicle accident on the highway.

Considering the severity of the accident, we decided to respond. Our social worker was understanding, but we felt like our opportunity to make a good first impression had disappeared!

Honesty is really the best policy

This was the person who would decide whether or not we were responsible enough to adopt a teen, and our first meeting had been full of stress, chaos, and uncertainty. I’m happy to report that we were able to reschedule again, and over the next few months we became deeply grateful for our home study social worker. Her thoroughness, attention to detail, commitment, and easy-going nature put us at ease. We remain in communication with her, updating her as we move forward in our adoption journey.

It sounds cliché, but when I’m asked by prospective parents for advice on how they can prepare for their home study, I say “be yourself and be honest”. That’s it. That’s what the home study is all about. The process is meant to show exactly who you are and what your life is like. It’s not meant to show perfection, or the life you wish you had. Instead of fearing the process, enjoy it!

In addition, expect the unexpected. Expect to be rattled. Expect to not know how to answer some questions. Expect to learn things about yourself that you never knew. Take advantage of the opportunity to examine your heart and your desires.

Worth the stress

For us, our comical (I can say that now!) first visit showed that we could roll with the punches, and that our hearts were focused on service to others. When we received a copy of our completed home study, we were overwhelmed. She had captured us, the real us, in twenty-four pages of honesty. Even the negative things in our lives were shared with positivity and compassion. The final document more than made up for the stress of sharing our personal lives with a stranger-and we made a friend in the process.

Tanya Chartrand is an adoptee, a firefighter, a hockey addict, a vinyl record collector, a blogger, and a hopeful adoptive mother.  She and her husband Jean are currently in the transition phase of adopting a teenage boy!